Charles Baudelaire

The Rag-Picker's Wine

Often, in the red light of a street-lamp Of which the wind whips the flame and worries the glass, In the heart of some old suburb, muddy labyrinth, Where humanity crawls in a seething ferment, One sees a rag-picker go by, shaking his head, Stumbling, bumping against the walls like a poet, And, with no thought of the stool-pigeons, his subjects, He pours out his whole heart in grandiose projects. He takes oaths, dictates sublime laws, Lays low the wicked and succors victims; Beneath the firmament spread like a canopy He gets drunk with the splendor of his own virtues. Yes, these people harassed by domestic worries, Ground down by their work, distorted by age, Worn-out, and bending beneath a load of debris, The commingled vomit of enormous Paris, Come back, smelling of the wine-cask, Followed by companions whitened by their battles, And whose moustaches bang down like old flags; Banners, flowers, and triumphal arches Rise up before them, a solemn magic! And in the deafening, brilliant orgy Of clarions and drums, of sunlight and of shouts, They bring glory to the crowd drunk with love! It is thus that throughout frivolous Humanity Wine, the dazzling Pactolus, carries flakes of gold; By the throats of men he sings his exploits And reigns by his gifts like a veritable king. To drown the bitterness and lull the indolence Of all these accurst old men who die in silence, God, touched with remorse, had created sleep; Man added Wine, divine child of the Sun! Translated by - William Aggeler The Wine of the Rag Pickers Often, in some red street-lamp's glare, whose flame The wind flaps, rattling at its glassy frame, In the mired labyrinth of some old slum Where crawling multitudes ferment their scum - With judge-like nods, a rag-picker comes reeling, Bumping on walls, like poets, without feeling, And scorning cops, now vassals of his state, Begins on glorious subjects to dilate, Takes royal oaths, dictates his laws sublime, Exalts the injured, and chastises crime, And, spreading his own dais on the sky, Is dazzled by his virtues, starred on high. Yes, these folk, badgered by domestic care, Ground down by toil, decrepitude, despair, Buckled beneath the foul load that each carries, The motley vomit of enormous Paris - Come home, vat-scented, trailing clouds of glory, Followed by veteran comrades, battle-hoary, Whose whiskers stream like banners as each marches. - Flags, torches, flowers, and steep triumphal arches Rise up for them in magic hues and burn, Since through this dazzling orgy they return, While drums and clarions daze the sun above, With glory to a nation drunk with love! Thus Wine, through giddy human life, is rolled, Like Pactolus, a stream of burning gold; Through man's own throat his exploits it will sing And reign by gifts, as best befits a king. To lull their laziness and drown their rancour, For storm-tossed wrecks a temporary anchor, God, in remorse, made sleep. Man added Wine, Child of the Sun, immortal and divine! Translated by - Roy Campbell

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